MINUSTAH’s Human Rights Section (HRS) continued to operate as the Haiti representation of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The HRS carried out its mandate, which included supporting MINUSTAH’s core stabilization responsibility, as well as protecting and promoting human rights through monitoring and reporting, supporting the Haitian State, the Office of the Ombudsperson, and civil society.
Prior to the 12 January 2010 earthquake, the human rights situation in Haiti was characterized by deep poverty, poor realization of economic and social rights, impunity for violations of civil and political rights, weak national institutions and frail civil society. The earthquake exacerbated this dire situation, killing many thousands of people and destroying public and private infrastructure, diminishing an already weak State capacity to fulfil human rights obligations. It also created new challenges, in particular, the protection of populations living in camps, especially in view of the cholera outbreak which followed, claiming over 7,000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of sick people within 12 months. Throughout 2011 the HRS took part in a post-humanitarian earthquake response protection cluster, formed by members of the UN country team in Haiti. The cluster sought to provide support to camps, remove debris, and initiated reconstruction projects. At the end of 2011, a Humanitarian Consolidated Appeal was launched for 2012, and the Protection Cluster began to implement plans to transition its responsibilities to State-led structures. This transition included preparing State authorities to manage emergency preparedness and response. Fraudulent Presidential and Parliamentary elections at the end of 2010 spilled into 2011. The newly elected President Michel Martelly took office in May, but for several more months was unable to obtain the necessary support from Parliament for his nominees for Prime Minister, effectively leaving the country without an operational Government.
During those challenging times, the HRS continued its capacity building efforts in terms of providing training to civil society organizations and human rights NGOs. It also trained public authorities in the field of public policy and the application of a human rights-based approach within their policies and programs. Together with government officials and members of civil society, it conducted a round-table discussion concerning Haiti’s reporting obligations to treaty bodies and the Human Rights Committee. In light of the elections, the HRS created and published booklets containing recommendations to political parties to address the human rights needs of each department in the country. Its training program also included awareness raising sessions to officers of the Haitian National Police as well as to judicial authorities regarding the legal framework against sexual and gender-based violence.